“Listen, lads. Hear it? The thrum around us, every moment. It's like a current, pulling us forward like pebbles in a stream, flowing and coursing together until we’s a torrent, out of control. That’s the Great Saga. Our story. It draws us along, pebbles in the stream, but here’s the secret at the heart of it; even one teensy pebble, if it bounces just right, can change the course of the river forever.
The Hanging Moon is out, and the fire is low. It’s time for another story.”
Hogrog ug Weirdklaw
Volume IV: The Bleeding Wilds
“A Story of War and Destiny in the Realms of Beasts and Metal; of the Sundered Dragon that Lay at the Heart of the Wilds; and of the Many who Fought to Lay Claim to its Legacy - for their Homes, their Fortunes, their Futures, their Ambitions, and their Freedom; as told by the Mad Orruk Hogrog ug Weirdklaw, Wurrgog Speaker of the Great Saga, and Faithfully recorded myself, your humble servant Nicodemeus Mikhail Grimm.”
Nicodemeus Mikhail Grimm
A peculiar sense of gloom hung over the forest, a tension that clashed with the hyshlight glinting from silver blossoms and the melodic song of rust-sparrows flitting through the branches. Was it the creak of bone just on the edge of hearing? The feeling of unseen eyes watching from every shadow? What had barely passed as a game trail just days before had expanded to something that resembled a true road as travelers and mercenaries from across the realms came to answer the wych's call. The pilgrims journeying through this twisted place of life and death shared little in their disparity, the lurching figure of the mysterious Father Root an odd contrast to the crimson plate of Pyrrha Bloodrain, Daemon princess of Khorne. All who came seeking these ancient boughs found welcome in the Sepulchre, for they shared a common cause. A solemn duty of death, and of birth.
The dragon's seal was weakening, and with it came opportunity. The acolytes of Necromancer Drakenot had stood sentry here for long ages, their charges bound to the same curse that held Maudra Rua in stasis. Precious survivors of a race once thought all but exterminated, a clutch of draconith eggs secreted here long ago. With the Bleed came a miracle: after centuries of stasis, one of the eggs had finally hatched. Now Drakenot stood to finally free their charges of their long curse, their forces hunting artifacts and sacred places suffused with the stuff of life to quicken their long dormant charges. And what better protector for the young than an undead colossus? It would be the necromancer's greatest work, to kill the fell dragon who would threaten the infants’ precious lives, and then to raise it as a sentinel, a ward strong enough to defend the little ones from any who might threaten them. The success of Drakenot's grand ritual would hang upon their new allies, for it would take the entire strength of the Underbough Sepulchre to see it through.
Perhaps the most famously strange rock the Badlands of Lahar could boast now sported foliage stranger still. The impromptu, mobile settlement that adorned the Weirdrock bore equal resemblance to a ruthless mercenary garrison out of Fairwater, a rampaging Waaagh, and a patchwork bazaar energetic enough to shame the trading arcades of Excelsis. Among the newest additions to the irregular might of the Right and Honourable Acquisitions Company mingled several vying Ogor tyrants of varying standing, a relentless Ossiarch excavator, a bamboozled Troggoth, a Khainite Gladiatrix and a duardin trade envoy encased in Varanite. Motley in form, they were joined in purpose by the vision of Profiteer-General Ghalbakk - to claim the Dragonmetal, all of it, while they could, and extract its best use, price, or both.
Ghalbakk surveyed his newfound little family with great pride - pride entirely, and most safely, invested in himself. This cunningly brutal amalgamation of a Free City’s armament and a Warboss’s horde was the best leverage he could have desired. The Kruleboy had no illusions about the rivals he was to face. But, even if Fairwater’s backing and his ‘volunteers’’ keenness or desperation proved insufficient to claim the true prize, he was quite sure with this lot at his back - or him at theirs - he could strongarm plenty enough shiny sweeteners and sparkly kickbacks from the miscellaneous rarities of this unique, fast-fading Bleed to keep the whole racket far more than merely worthwhile.
The Wreck of Barak-Drak
The metal skeleton of the skyport dashed across the mountainside was alive with activity. Kharadron repair crews clung to its hull like ants, and worked even harder. Vast sheets of hull plating were airlifted into place by the newly arrived relief forces from Barak-Hirn. Hangars were being widened and reinforced to provide housing for unfamiliar creatures. Terrorgheists leapt from its sides like eagles from an eyrie. Within, griffhounds and squigs eyed each other uneasily. All the while, their owners were hard at work lending a hand with repairs or plotting out their venture into the wilds. Working together, as one. As the Skyguard.
Admiral Breyla’s unconventional offer of membership into the Guild had broken nearly every tradition among the Kharadron, yet she couldn’t help but feel pride at how they had been able to pull together in the immediate aftermath of the crash. There was no time left for doubt. Their endrins lay in pieces across the Wilds, and the dragon beneath their feet grew more unsteady by the day. Yet they did not stop. The Kharadron had always survived by adapting and overcoming whatever challenge they faced. Even if that now meant adapting what it meant to be Kharadron. After all, if aelves and grots, stormcast and even vengorians could put aside their differences and serve the port in its time of need, how could any right-minded Duardin consider them anything less?
Amongst the dark waves of the Amber Sea, a fleet of boats tethered by the coast were still lit by a handful of candles. The slew of vessels never truly rested, for their rowdy greenskin crew was numerous – and always up for a tussle and a drink at any hour of the night. But one candle burned longer than the others: the light in the window of the Stormdancer Black Ark’s tallest spire. Here worked Captain Castian, fleetmaster, hunter, and so-called monster-prince. Sleep was a stranger to the single-minded aelf, who had set his sights on locating what his men had dubbed The Greatest Stabba, and generating a WAAAGH! great enough to rouse his ancient prey from her slumber. But he worked now with a slight smile – a twitch of fervour betraying his excitement at the new strategies that had opened up before him.
The allies of the Stormdancer were growing. Everything from their manpower to their weapons arsenal was growing with every passing day. Perhaps, a few seasons ago, he might have admitted in private to the difficulties of working through a rowdy live-in warclan. But he would sit through the roar of beasts and the snores of gargants if it meant he could achieve his goal. And he would thank them for it. Both old friends and new had entwined with his hunting party. He cast his mind’s eye to Hakai and his stomp of six gargants, capable of locking eyes with him as high up as the tower window. The enigmatic skaven Klink and his… unorthodox beast-taming looked to be an adventure waiting to be had. And finally, the return of the Grey Phantom had done wonders for setting his mind at ease. To know and trust other experienced captains in what was to be the biggest undertaking of their lives was vital at this stage in his plans.
As Castian finally allowed himself some of the hearty meal left to him by the Kleaver’s Maw, he felt his eyes flutter shut. Things were going well. He might even permit himself some rest.
Even in the waxing of ulgu the cerulean sands of the desert shimmered, reflecting the glow of the cookfires and torches that sprawl out from the old city. In daylight the scene was even more resplendent, colourful tents and fluttering bunting turning the ruins into a riotous kaleidoscope. Ogors in bright motley cheerfully brewed fragrant broths and spit seasoned meats, filling the air with scintillating aromas. Such was the bounty of this perpetual feast that the ogors were willing to share their meals with the new arrivals filtering in on promises of arcane treasure. Some, like the ogor chef Gigglegrin, had ingratiated themselves enough to be near indistinguishable from the usual entourage of the Nashwan Cabal; others like the outcast ungor Shiv crouched warily at the back of shrouded tents, eyes and blades glinting evilly from the dark. All had come here for the spoils of this tumultuous time, many strange figures already discussing their prospective acquisitions; a twitching grey seer in hushed conversation with a mellifluous weaver of fate here, a spectral haunt twisting about a battlemage with a calculating eye there.
In the centre of the ruins stood the grandest tent of all: the Hushed. Draped languidly across a pile of plump silk cushions was Vizier Nashwar, a wicked grin stretched across the sphiranx's feline features as she took audience with favoured underlings. For her, this was no mere hunt for sorcerous trinkets. Oh, those would be gathered en masse, of course, but that was not her primary goal. What she had traveled to this distant desert for was far grander: ascendency. With the help of her new court of allies and mercenaries, Vizier Nashwar was to take apotheosis into her own hands. The dragon Maudra Rua would be hers, and more. It would be her.
The Balemoon Weald
The sweltering jungle air vibrated with the low and steady chanting that hung like a cloak across the ruined temple grounds. A harmony made of discordant parts, voices unused to accompaniment suddenly brought into chorus. Beasts of the dark powers and revenant shades, forgotten tools of the slann and followers of a false queen. The disparate brought together by the chains they carried, whether real or upon their souls. Voice-of-Embers moved among them, talking and learning. Soon, the hunt would come.
Fires lit the sky. Hundreds of camps, thousands of warriors who believed in freeing the thunderstorm trapped beneath their feet. In the distance, the Scathcaller pronounced a new rite of exultation, and the chant shifted in tone. They were, Voice-of-Embers knew, only beginning. The stars burned high above, and before them the Wilds waited to be conquered. For the future of the cult, and the freedom they waited for. Soon, the hunt would come.
Night within the Bleeding Wilds shuddered and twisted, the broken realms straining against each other at the edge of existence. Like colossal titans whose minds functioned at the scale of glaciers and ages, they struggled against each other, fighting to assert themselves into reality. The Wilds flowed like clay, easily shaped by the hands of the wild energies of the Ur-River, molding and reshaping to suit the flowing lines of reality. Yet there, at the very edges, the Bleed was already beginning to dry out, and cracks were beginning to form.